Kemal Demirasal: where to eat in İzmir

Kemal Demirasal grew up in Alaçatı, a peninsular town about a half an hour’s drive east from downtown İzmir. The area is famous for two things: windsurfing – which he did professionally until he was 27 – and incredible food, which he’s been making ever since. Most recently, this has been at his own restaurant, The Counter on Golborne Road, a modern ocakbasi, where he cooks high-end Turkish food over an open-fire charcoal grill. We talked to him about what and where to eat in his home region.

Kokoreççi Asim Usta

We have fine dining in İzmir, but the scene there is really all about street food. One of our local specialities is called Kokoreççi, which is lamb’s intestines rolled into a cylinder and filled with sweetbreads. You then chop the cylinder into slices and eat it in a sandwich. The best place to eat it in İzmir is Asim Usta, which is a simple street food kind of place but it does famously good Kokoreççi . 

Kokoreççi Asim Usta, Rafet Paşa, Burak Reis Cd. No:226A, 35500 Bornova/İzmir; instagram.com/kokorecciasimusta


Söğüş is made from lamb’s cheek, tongue and brain. It’s one of the great delicacies of Turkish street food. The meat gets poached and then chopped up and served in a wrap with white onions, parsley and tomatoes. İzmir is famous for this dish and the best place to eat it is a takeaway place called Söğüşçüm, right in the middle of city.

Söğüşçüm Yenişehir, 1245. Sk. No:61 D:L, 35170 Konak/İzmir, Türkiye; instagram.com/soguscum

Horasan Balık

Çeşme is a lovely seaside resort town next to Alaçatı, where I grew up, and it’s famous for its fish restaurants. My favourite is a very artisan place called Horasan Balık. The chef there uses only the best super-fresh ingredients, and he loves playing around with almost raw, barely marinated seafood and fish. He keeps it really simple: octopus cooked over charcoal, fish cooked on the bone and served in olive oil. 

Horasan Balık Çeşme, İnönü Mahallesi, 2022. Sk. no:16, 35930 Çeşme/İzmir, Türkiye; instagram.com/horasanbalikcesme

Teruar Urla

In between İzmir and Alaçatı there is a town called Urla, which has a very good fine-dining restaurant called Teruar Urla in the south of the city. The chef has an Italian background and he takes an Italian approach to Aegean ingredients. It’s also a good place to drink the excellent local wines. There are so many vineyards around Urla that they’ve created a special wine route which you can drive along, stopping at the different wineries. 

Kuşçular, 8028. Sk. No:16, Urla; instagram.com/teruarurla

OD Urla 

There’s also another excellent fine dining restaurant just north of Urla town centre, called OD Urla. Here, they take a farm-to-table approach to sourcing ingredients, which they then cook over an open fire in the middle of the restaurant. They serve a tasting menu and à la carte, and use lots of local ingredients in a very imaginative way. 

Rüstem, Süt Pınarı Mevkii, 2018/9 Sokak No:28, Urla; odurla.com; instagram.com/odurla

Try Kemal’s food at The Counter, 108 Golborne Road, W10 5PS; thecounterlondon.com

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